Keeping Chickens in the Winter

Claire Smith
Tuesday, 24th November 2015

All you need to know on how to keep your chickens over winter. From feeding and egg laying, to maintaining the coop and run.

Raising chickens during winter can be a challenging time for backyard chicken owners. With those dark cold mornings and the drop in egg production, it’s no wonder we don’t like this time of year!

So I have produced a guide as an aid for all backyard chicken owners, and to answer all your questions about how to care for your chickens during winter: how to keep them warm, how to stop predators, how to keep your egg production high… you will find all the answers here.
 
Each chapter can be read as a standalone guide on a specific topic; however you should make sure you try and read the entire guide to get the most out of it. You can drop in and out of it as needed, or you can read the entire guide cover to cover right now!

Below is a snippet from the guide.

Wintering your coop

Blocking drafts

The twin enemies of chicken comfort and wellbeing in winter are drafts and moisture. Both of these impair a chickens’ ability to maintain that dry, warm cocoon of air.

Cold drafts can affect the most vulnerable parts of your chicken: combs, wattles and feet.

When chickens perch at night, they settle down over their feet keeping them warm. This leaves just the comb and wattles at the mercy of the elements.

Birds with large combs are more vulnerable to frostbite, especially in damp environments. Combine that with a nasty draft whipping through the coop and you can have a bad case of frostbite.

Drafts are most likely to occur when you have holes in your coop or badly fitting windows and doors.

First of all you need to check your coops for holes and gaps. If your coop is quite new you shouldn’t have any holes to worry about, but coops older than 5 years could have started rotting and holes will start appearing.

The easiest way to patch up the holes is to screw a piece of plywood (cut to measure) over the hole. In blocking these gaps you are stopping the cold drafts and you are also keeping out predators. Holes/gaps larger than ½ inch are big enough for weasels to squeeze into the coop and damage your flock.

Now is the time to be checking: it’s much more pleasant to do these tasks while the weather is still tolerable and your hands will co-operate with your brain!

Coop ventilation

Whilst it’s important not to have any large holes in the coop, it’s also just as important not to make your coop an air tight box– this can cause serious problems such as ammonia build up.

In order to combat this, you need to have adequate ventilation. Vents are best placed where the cold air will not flow directly onto the birds- up towards the roof is great.

Make sure you have a good flow of air through your coop. You need to vent out the warm, moisture laden air and replace it with cooler drier air. A good airflow will keep your humidity down and prevent mold in the bedding.

I prefer to place my vents in areas where the wind doesn’t directly blow on my girls; this helps to keep them warm but also prevents stale air from building up.

I have also fitted a hatch which can be used to open or close the vent. This is really helpful because I can leave the hatch open during the daytime to ‘vent’ the coop, and then in the evening (or if it’s raining) I can close the hatch and seal the girls in for the night.

If your coop doesn’t have any ventilation slots at the moment, you can easily cut a section out of your coop and replace it with galvanized mesh and then fit a hatch over the mesh to control the airflow like I did.

For more on wintering your coop and the full guide, visit www.thehappychickencoop.com/the-definitive-guide-to-keeping-chickens-in-winter

The guide includes:

Chapter 1 - Wintering your coop

Chapter 2 - Keep egg laying high during winter

Chapter 3 - Feed chickens in winter

Chapter 4 - Stop your chickens' water freezing

Chapter 5 - Chickens molting during winter

Chapter 6 - Winterizing your run

Further resources

Watch: Growing chickens - feeding compost not grain

How to harvest chicken manure and accelerate your garden compost

Free Range Chicken Gardens for just £10.99 from our Green Shopping site

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